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Eulogy, or Why The Hat wore gloves

by Cornelia 

Posted: 19 January 2011
Word Count: 558
Summary: Entry for Week 340 challenge about Truth and Deception

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We went back a long way, Sam and me: West Ham, Young Offenders and then the Scrubs, where Sam learned enough to keep us both out of trouble. So I feel it's up to me on this sad occasion to answer some questions.

When Sam walked down Green Street men stepped back into the shadows and women held up their babies for luck. Nobody knew why he always wore gloves. Some just assumed he took no chances with prints, which was fair enough. You can never be too careful.

Some thought it was connected with the kebab shop incident, when he was a teenager, just starting out. As it happened, he and Max the Axe reached for the same bottle of chilli sauce. A scuffle broke out and by time the old bill arrived, Max was lying senseless behind the counter. When Sam left hospital - Max and the witnesses never did - Sam had renamed himself The Hat and started wearing gloves.

As I was his most trusted friend, it was only natural people asked me why he called himself The Hat. They reckoned it might be a tribute to Jack the Hat, although Sam never wore a hat as such, except for a balaclava when he was working.

As the judge commented when he sent Sam down, Sam the Hat had the innocence of a child harnessed to the instincts of a tyrannosaurus rex. It didnít pay to get the wrong side of him. So I never asked, although I had my own ideas about it.

Now, as some of you know, The Hat was a great film fan and he idolised Robert Mitchum. He looked a bit like Sam: same hooded eyes and big shoulders. The Hat watched every film he was in. I remember one where Mitchum terrified Shelley Winters and her two little kids just by whistling a tune whenever he got near them. He had letters tattooed on his fingers: L-O-V-E on one hand and H-A-T-E on the other. The Hat watched the film a dozen times just to hear the screaming.

We've all just witnessed a proper East End send-off : hearse; black stallions; hat-shaped wreath; all the trimmings; as is only fitting for such a great man. But there were things that bothered me as much as everyone else.

Yesterday, I stood beside the coffin at the funeral parlour and looked down at The Hat, laid out with his gloved hands across his chest and I just had to know for certain.

Last night, when everyone had gone, I went back to the funeral parlour. There was Sam in his open coffin, between four big candles. I knew he was gone, but he was there as well, if you get my meaning, watching me, as if he understood. With a struggle, I took off one of his gloves. It was as I remembered: the hand had letters tattooed on each finger: L- O - V- E. Just like Robert Mitchum in the film. I pulled off the other glove. The little finger was missing, so all there was left was H-A-T.

When Max struck in the kebab shop, Sam lost the final E, but he didn't want anyone to know. So that solves the two mysteries. May he rest in peace, now we know why The Hat always wore gloves.

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Comments by other Members

tusker at 14:34 on 19 January 2011  Report this post
I enjoyed this, Sheila.

Loved that gangland atmosphere and those characters lurking in the shadows. Had a Ron and Reggie Kray feel about it with a funny, surprising ending.


Desormais at 15:41 on 19 January 2011  Report this post
I liked this. Bags of atmosphere, good characters, well drawn. I think I might have left out reference to Nick the Book; purely on the grounds that this is a flash and maybe he was just one character too many. But I enjoyed the read and I think you do flash fiction very well.


Bunbry at 21:02 on 19 January 2011  Report this post
Very good Sheila, lots of interesting things going on, good characterisation and a satisfying ending to boot - just my cup of tea!


Cornelia at 22:46 on 19 January 2011  Report this post
Thank you all for reading. Sandra, a timely reminder of a failing - too many characters. Maybe this works better my other over-crowded stories because it's a monologue, but Nick the book could have been left out. I'd forgotten how much I like flash fiction.

V`yonne at 00:16 on 20 January 2011  Report this post
I like the 'Analyse This' talk too but that hat/hate joke is so mant=y years old I'm not sure it'll stand many more outings but who am I to judge? I think keep the tone but change the joke/story to encompass something more original? It's well written.

Cornelia at 10:18 on 20 January 2011  Report this post
Thanks for reading and commenting, V'yonne. I've had 'Analyse this' on list for a while. I love De Niro. I've seen a lot of Martin Scorcese films but I was thinking more of Damon Runyan's comic gangsters - 'Guys and Dolls' when I wrote this. The film about the Kray twins starring Martin Kemp had a finger-chopping scene, I think. I taught eight years in a school in Green Street, next to West Ham football ground, so I was used to that kind of admiration for 'hard' men. It's one reason I find it difficult to watch 'East Enders' - all too familiar and depressing. I assumed people would be aware of the Robert Mitchum film (noir's my favourite film genre) but didn't know the missing letter joke had been used before.


V`yonne at 17:11 on 20 January 2011  Report this post
didn't know the missing letter joke had been used before.

It's an old joke and I was vert surprised when it appeared as the denouement in a mslexia flash winner! Disgusted to be honest that nobody picked that up in such a mag...

Cornelia at 22:39 on 20 January 2011  Report this post
Of course, there's always the possibility of having read something before and it registering subconsciously. As someone who's studied literature for a living, so to speak, I know that's more than likely. But when you mention Myslexia I can eliminate that source, because I paid only one subscription period, about five years ago. Anyway, thanks for pointing it out.



Do you mean it was a story where someone had lost the E too?

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